When it comes to employee recognition, appreciating and acknowledging the youngest generation in your workplace could take some adjustment. Known as Gen Y, or Millennials, this is the cohort between the ages of about 18 and 32.
Millennials have a bad rep as entitled narcissists obsessed with their smartphones. A tongue-in-cheek video that recently went viral makes light of these stereotypes. Produced by the comedy outfit Can Opener Studios, it depicts Millennials apologizing for being “the worst” generation — while drawing attention to the real challenges young people face today.
Say ‘Thank You’ Face-to-Face
As Tom Kaneshige writes on CIO, generational myths can be deceptive and counter-productive.
Technology may define this generation, but Millennials still value face-to-face interactions, he says: “Despite the stereotype of the screen-staring, unsocial millennial, they really do want to have real connections the old-fashioned way.” He cites a Cornerstone OnDemand survey that shows three out of five Millennials favor in-person collaboration, which is only 10 percent less than surveyed employees across all generations.
Don’t let stereotypes deter you from talking in person with your twenty-something employees. A quick compliment face-to-face, or a handwritten note, could be just the break they crave from their plugged-in world, and feel more meaningful.
Foster Friendships Among Employees
The importance of face-to-face interaction doesn’t let you off the hook from keeping up with the latest tech and social media, according to Jenny Dearborn on SAP Business Trends in a post that later got picked up by Forbes. It’s still important to meet Millennials “on their (virtual) turf,” she says.
For young employees who happily blur the line between work and personal life, and social life and social media, employee recognition is sometimes best achieved indirectly, through friendships.
Encouraging discussion and friendships, online and off-line, will win Millennial approval, Dearborn writes: “They thrive on community-building in online collaboration tools, such as Facebook and Jam, as well as off-line via sports leagues and social outings with colleagues — who are also their core circle of friends. Employees who have someone they consider a personal friend at work are more likely to stay with that organization.”
Aim for “an Almost Constant Stream of Feedback’
Consider recognizing employees more often, whether it’s to give praise or a suggest an improvement. Waiting around for the annual review strikes young people now as sluggish and outdated, writes Dan Schawbel for TIME. He cites an MTV study called “No Collar Workers” that found 80 percent of Millennials want regular feedback from their managers and 75 percent “yearn for a mentor.”
Ty Kiisel at Forbes describes this Millennial trait as a desire for “an almost constant stream of feedback.” Like the immediacy of the social media platforms Millennials grew up using, frequent employee recognition is fresh and relevant.
“Semi-annual reviews are frustrating to this group. They want to know how they’re doing now — not six months from now. This is a problem for managers and leaders who are used to working with people who require less attention. I’m not convinced this is a bad thing. Regular feedback is appreciated by this Boomer and most of my older colleagues. And is definitely expected by the younger members of our team,” Kiisel writes.
What’s your experience with Millennials? Have you changed your recognition programs to address their needs?
For current learning and best practice ways to recognize all employees in your workplace, download our FREE eBook, “The Ultimate Guide to Employee Gift-Giving”.
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